‘Writing on egg shells’ – impact of online trolls
Kerry Thompson is a disabled blogger. She tells us how she deals with some of the trolling comments she receives.
*Some of the subject matter in this blog readers may find triggering.
When I started my blog, ‘My Life Kerry’s Way’, it never crossed my mind that I would receive negative or hateful comments just because I’m disabled and sharing my journey.
I am all for constructive criticism and will always welcome it. And criticism will always come with the territory. But how do you deal with comments that aren’t so much critical but more hateful!?
Why I started my blog
I have a rare form of Muscular Dystrophy. It’s a progressive muscle wasting condition that affects my arm and leg muscles. As well as my heart and respiratory system. I have a power wheelchair that acts as my legs to be able to keep my independence. I rely heavily on the help of others to do the simplest of daily tasks.
My blog is a way for me to talk about the good, bad and sometimes ugly. But also the positives of living with Muscular Dystrophy. I receive many comments from people sharing their own stories. But who are also very appreciative as they don’t feel so alone. Then you have the odd few telling me in an incredulous voice that I wouldn’t understand ‘real struggles’. And how would I? I’m only disabled.
The type of comments received
Now I am totally going to sound like my mother when I say this… ‘I remember when’. But yes, I do remember when social media wasn’t around. If you wanted to talk or tell someone something, it was by knocking on their door or telling them to their faces. A crazy concept and totally alien these days, I know!
I was once told that ‘if everybody liked you, you’re doing something wrong’. It’s a very true statement that I carry with me always. As a disabled person over the years, I have learnt to grow a thick skin. As much as I have received the odd hurtful comment, it’s been a mixed bag. Mostly private messages and your classic lines of ‘should’ve been aborted’ or ‘I can’t even bring myself to read anything with a title like that’ and ‘you’re a drain on society, just die already’.
How the trolling comments affected me
Even though I knew these comments were coming from people hiding behind their keyboards and, more than likely fake accounts, you just can’t help but have this gut-wrenching fear. And yes, I have cried in the past.
It affects and heavily plays with your mental health. You can spend your time worrying and looking at those one or two hurtful comments over and over, trying to understand why! If you’re not careful, you can hit a new low. If you’re not careful, anxiety can creep in and take over. I found myself second-guessing my writing and the context. In a way, I was starting to write on eggshells. All because of other people’s words. I was allowing them to take my words, my truth, my life, my personal experiences.
You can be consumed with thoughts of “if I continue to share my whole life with the world online this could mean receiving more hurtful comments.” While I receive more positive, kind and beautiful comments from my followers, my mind can take me back to the negative ones.
I have learnt as time has passed that I can’t allow these people and hateful comments to control my life and affect my mental health. It’s not like they lose any sleep after they have left a hateful comment. So why should I?
Why it's important to talk about disability hate crime
Unfortunately, people don’t see or understand that disability hate crime is very much alive and happening. It’s just as bad as any other form of hate crime and prejudice. You will rarely see disability talked about in social media guidelines, and it is often an afterthought. Until social media platforms start to recognise disability hate crime and ableism, we are faced with adding it to the already long list of things we ‘just put up with’.
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